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Philippines: Table salt seen to boost RP coco industry growth

Salt, the common food seasoning one finds in a kitchen table, may just save the Philippine coconut industry from further decline. The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has proven in several tests some years back that salt (sodium chloride or common table salt) is the cheapest and one of the most effective organic fertilizer for coconuts readily available in the market.

Coconut industry stakeholders in Southern Mindanao are now urging the government to promote massive salt farming nationwide in a strategic move to increase salt production in the Philippines. Industry movers now participating in the Davao Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Project (Diccep) jointly sponsored by the region's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) are pushing for massive salt production all over the country to make salt readily available to all coconut farmers as cheap organic fertilizer to boost more coconut production.

"Why don't we put up salt beds nationwide to supply the salt as fertilizers to all coconut farmers?" was one of the suggestions put across by the region's coconut cluster group during the month-long DICCEP seminar workshop in Davao. This was raised by PCA provincial officer Juvy Alayon and immediately carried by the industry cluster group as a long-term strategy to boost Mindanao's coconut production.

According to PCA projections, the copra production in Mindanao is still very low and expected to reach 7.5 million metric tons which is only about 55 percent of the projected demand of 13.7 million metric tons of copra for the period covering 2004-2010. The PCA said Davao oil mills, for instance, are only producing 66 percent of their total capacity as the region failed to cope with the supply requirements for copra due to the region's low farm production and shrinking coconut farm areas.

This was confirmed by company spokesperson Adela Tamparong of Asia Pacific Oil, one of the industry's stakeholders participating in the industry cluster workshop. "We've lost our buyers from US and Europe. We're only exporting our coconut oil to Korea, Japan and China," Tamparong said. Low yields of coconuts from many coconut plantations in Mindanao, has been blamed for the alarming low copra production in this part of the country.

Chlorine deficiency, according to PCA, is widespread in many inland coconut farms and salt is the "cheapest and best source of fertilizer for coconut." The PCA said some 40 coconut producing areas in the country, including Mindanao, are seriously affected by chlorine deficiency. In a series of tests made in 1991-1997, hundreds of selected coconut farmers used salt to fertilize 170,000 hectares of coconut farms nationwide, totaling 18 million coconut trees. Final results revealed by the PCA show all the coconut farms fertilized with salt harvested 125 percent more coconuts.

Salt production in the Philippines, however, is still too small, estimated around 160,000 to 220,000 metric tons annually, compared to the world's top salt suppliers like the US (46 million mt), China (37million mt), India (15 million mt), and Canada (14 million mt), according to industry sources. This limited salt production has forced the Philippines to import salt from India, Australia and Jordan. Recently, the country imported 400,000 metric tons of salt from India to cope with the demands of various industries. Most of the salt production in the country is concentrated in the salt farms of Pangasinan, Bulacan and Mindoro Occidental.

Trade Undersecretary Merly Cruz hopes to see a more robust growth of the coconut industry and cited the Jica training seminar for enhancing the capacity of stakeholders in the coconut industry to identify critical problems and suggesting good solutions. "Global demand for coconuts is still strong as ever, because of its many uses -- oil from copra, activated carbon from its shells, coco fiber and peat from its husks, health drink from its coco water, handicrafts from its leaves and many others. Even the emergence of biodiesel will spur a huge demand for more coconuts. It's significant to note that suggestions and solutions at the DICCEP workshops are coming up to boost the growth of this industry," Cruz said.


Publication date: 10/3/2008


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